Photo Credit: WhiteHouse.Gov screen capture
U.S. President Barack Obama

Are Americans going to let the administration off the hook for pretending a significant infusion of money as a reward for signing whatever deal the western allies present to Iran is different from the immediate lifting of sanctions?

You see, the western negotiators are stuck.


That’s because the Ayatollah and his team have begun demanding that, as a reward for coming to any agreement with the great Satan (the United States) and its buddies regarding its own nuclear program, the economic sanctions imposed upon it for violating years of United Nations resolutions against it immediately be lifted.

But the U.S., at least, began this latest round of negotiations by promising its people that those economic sanctions connected to Iran’s nuclear program will only be lifted when Iran has met its obligations under the new deal, not simply when it promises to do so.

Iran is driving a hard bargain. It is insisting that those negotiating with it actually respect its demands, even if Iran has not, and continues to give every reason to believe it will not, respect the terms demanded by others.

So what is an administration, hell-bent on achieving a foreign policy success at any cost, going to do?

Apparently the answer to that question is “be creative.” And that is just what U.S. President Barack Obama promised to be, in an effort to give Iran what it says it needs and still allow the American negotiating team and its supporters to insist that the sanctions on Iran will not be lifted immediately.

Instead, Obama suggested at a news conference on Friday, April 17, that it would be willing to provide a “good will gesture” of significant economic relief upon the signing of the nuclear agreement. Think of it as a signing bonus given to desired major league players just for agreeing to come join the team, without ever having to even pick up the ball to play.

And at the same time the administration can continue to state – mostly with a straight face as they’re already pretty adept at this kind of thing – that there will only be a phased-in relief to sanctions, pegged to compliance with the signed agreement.

In other words, as described in Friday’s Wall Street Journal:

The Obama administration estimates Iran has between $100 billion and $140 billion of its oil revenue frozen in offshore accounts as a result of sanctions. U.S. officials said they expect Tehran to gain access to these funds in phases as part of a final deal. Iran could receive somewhere between $30 billion and $50 billion upon signing the agreement, said congressional officials briefed by the administration.

The president presented this word game as something that is intended to dupe Iranians while allowing their leadership to save face, “get to our main concerns while allowing the other side to make a presentation to their body politic that is more acceptable,” of course the Iranians can make the same exact claim to their constituents.

The difference, of course, is that all the West gets is, maybe, a signed deal with the Iranians, while the Ayatollah and the Iranian political leaders gain enormous and immediate financial relief for their people.

Now you’ll be hearing lots of emphasis on the importance of sanctions being able to “snapback” if there is any backsliding by Iran on the nuclear agreement. But given the chance that Iran will get, free and clear, large infusions of money simply for signing the agreement, the already heavily criticized as unworkable snapback concept becomes less significant.


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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email:
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